End of an Experiment - Architecture - Domus
End of an Experiment
 

End of an Experiment

The gallery "Program, Initiative for Art and Architecture Collaborations" in Berlin will close in January 2012.

 

Architecture / Andres Lepik

Program Architectural galleries tend to work rather like architectural museums, by presenting visitors with two or three-dimensional representations of built architecture, i.e. drawings, photographs or also models. However, if architecture is understood as a cultural discipline that is not just encountered through reproductions, but also by physical experiences, then the traditional methods of architectural presentation are wholly unsuitable. Carson Chan and Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, both of whom studied architectural history and theory at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, decided in 2006 to explore other means of architectural presentation by founding Program, Initiative for Art and Architecture Collaborations. The idea for this arose when Chan was working at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin for the exhibition "Oswald Matthias Ungers" and starting thinking fundamentally about the theory and practice of architectural exhibitions. Near his flat in Berlin-Mitte he found gallery space in the ground floor of the legendary Russian hotel Newa, the hotel's former restaurant, which was inexpensive to rent. He decided to seize this opportunity for a new gallery project together with Lazaridou-Hatzigoga. No other city in the world could have been better-suited, because at this time there was still inexpensive space with a complex historical past available for rent and this is also where a highly active international artist scene exists. The location in Invalidenstrasse, between Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart and the gallery district in Auguststrasse, was ideal.

Raurouw, <i>shock control regression adaptation</i>, 2010

Raurouw, shock control regression adaptation, 2010

The fundamental goal was to make architecture the direct object of exhibitions and using the smallest possible number of reproductions. This undertaking, which they started without any previous experience, became one of the most important new developments in Berlin's gallery scene in a very short time, creating international attention. In January 2007, the imminent profile of Program became identifiable with the installation In the Absence of Unambiguous Criteria by the artist Rodney LaTourelle: visitors were able to confront the direct effect of colour and spatial perception in a labyrinthine structure. "Nonspheres IV" by Luis Berrios-Negrón and The Traffic of Clouds by Hackenbroich Architekten with Jan Christensen (both in 2007) were architecturally planned installations that fundamentally transformed the gallery space for the duration of the exhibition.

The PROGRAM's library

The PROGRAM's library

went to get wood by Ethan Hayes-Chute (2008 / 2009) pragmatically translated the theory of the primitive hut as the germ cell of architecture into an informal dwelling of found material. Taking this lasting confrontation with the set gallery space to its logical conclusion, Sophie Dejode, Bertram Lacombe and Philip Vormwald created their work Thirty-Two Fingers in 2008. They set up a smaller replica of the gallery within the gallery, which led to a complete confusion of the perception of space and dimension. With Surface Values the Finnish artist Eemil Karila made visible the social forces behind architecture which otherwise remain hidden to visitors: cleaning personnel mopped the floor with a special cleaning agent whose traces became visible in fluorescent light. The Israeli artist Ariel Reichman transformed the gallery space for six weeks into a place of radical confrontation with the questions of territory and individual living space with his Legal Settlement in April 2009. Built on Promises by Matthias Ballestrem and Anton Burdakov (2010 / 2011) used the traditional presentation of architecture through models and photographs to create a spatial installation in the gallery, only to pull it down afterwards and to put it back into visitors' minds through its media documentation.

 
The continual attempt to define the medium of architectural exhibitions in ever new perspectives while keeping open the boundaries to art, music, dance, film, performance and other disciplines gave Program its unique profile and dynamic nature.
 
Exterior view of PROGRAM

Exterior view of PROGRAM

The continual attempt to define the medium of architectural exhibitions in ever new perspectives while keeping open the boundaries to art, music, dance, film, performance and other disciplines gave Program its unique profile and dynamic nature. New ideas for the theory of architectural exhibitions were generated from experimental practice. The great success was also based on the clever decision to fit an open space in the back of the gallery with tables and to hire out temporary workspaces for creative individuals here. This guaranteed the gallery's basic funding for a long time and also created a constantly regenerating, informal think tank, from which many ideas for the gallery and event programme emerged. In addition there was a studio space in the rearward area, in which different artists and architects were attracted to Berlin for short stays of up to three months. This combination of gallery, temporary workspaces and the artist-in-residence programme was unique and led to a lasting, fruitful exchange within the team, but also with other creative forces and institutions in the city. Through architectural workshops for students in collaboration with various international universities Program expanded its concept into the academic dimension too.

Lynne Marsh e June14, <i>The Philharmonie Project (Nielsen: Symphony No. 5)</i>, 2011. Photo Trevor Good

Lynne Marsh e June14, The Philharmonie Project (Nielsen: Symphony No. 5), 2011. Photo Trevor Good

After 33 exhibitions, more than 22 artists in residence and countless lectures, film nights, symposia, workshops and other events, Program will close its gallery space in January 2012, because when the tenancy agreement came up for renewal, the landlord demanded such a high rent that Program, as a non-profit organization, could not afford to stay. This is a shame on the one hand, because it marks the end of an extremely fruitful initiative. However, the decision made by Chan and Lazaridou-Hatzigoga not to seek new premises is logical, because Program therefore ends before the driving forces slacken: "If you do something too long, people will stop questioning it," says Chan, who, along with Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, is now able to stand back from the exhibition programme to date, even though they still want to put on further events. Program will be missed in Berlin as an institution, but during the five years of its existence it made a crucial contribution to redefining the medium of architectural exhibitions in contemporary practice. Andres Lepik

Lynne Marsh e June14, <i>The Philharmonie Project (Nielsen: Symphony No. 5)</i>, 2011. Photo Trevor Good

Lynne Marsh e June14, The Philharmonie Project (Nielsen: Symphony No. 5), 2011. Photo Trevor Good

Alexandros Tsolakis, Bastian Wibranek e Sebastian Kriegsmann, <i>Disconnect</i>, 2011. Photo Elsa Thorp

Alexandros Tsolakis, Bastian Wibranek e Sebastian Kriegsmann, Disconnect, 2011. Photo Elsa Thorp

PROGRAM's coworking space, 2009

PROGRAM's coworking space, 2009

Carson Chan e Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, directors and founders of PROGRAM

Carson Chan e Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, directors and founders of PROGRAM

<i>Ueberleben</i>, group show curated by Sophie Hamacher and Louise Witthöft, 2008

Ueberleben, group show curated by Sophie Hamacher and Louise Witthöft, 2008